What started as a small demonstration by opponents of the redevelopment of a landmark park in Istanbul in late May escalated into some of the biggest anti-government protests to erupt in Turkey in years. This is presenting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan with the most serious challenge to his authority during his decade in office. 

Although a variety of grievances contributed to the rapid swelling of attendance at the demonstrations, the unifying theme that emerged as the protests extended into June was a sense of deep unease. This is occurring among a large cross-section of the population. Critics contend that Erdogan’s leadership style is undermining democracy at home and soiling Turkey’s reputation abroad.

The ruling AKP rallied around the defiant prime minister, whose hold on power was never really in question. However, the unrest has cast doubt upon Erdogan’s political future beyond the end of the current term in mid-2015.

The mainstream opposition parties may struggle to capitalize on the protests.

Although recent events have put the government on the defensive, it would be too early to conclude that the balance of power has shifted away from the AKP. The mainstream opposition parties may struggle to capitalize on the protests unless they can come up with a coherent policy program that is more appealing than the AKP’s strategy.

As for the grassroots activist groups, it is one thing to mobilize the masses and quite another to organize them into a disciplined electoral force, and it is debatable whether the effort will even be made.

It is unlikely that Erdogan will face a challenge from within his own party, but the recent unrest has convinced some elements within the AKP that the prime minister is becoming a liability. Under the party’s rules, the current term will be Erdogan’s last as prime minister.

He has been pushing for constitutional changes that would significantly enhance the powers of the president, presumably with the intention of running for the presidency in 2014, and, assuming he wins, inheriting many of the powers previously held by the prime minister.

That plan has not gone down well with some members of the AKP, particularly those with ambitions to replace Erdogan as prime minister when he vacates the post. The divided opinion about the plan made its realization uncertain six months ago, and the probability of it coming to fruition is even lower now.


The PRS Group
About The Author The PRS Group
The PRS Group is a leading global provider of political and country risk analysis and forecasts, covering 140 countries. Based on proprietary, quantitative risk models, the firm's clientele includes financial institutions, multilateral agencies, and trans-national firms.


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